Episode 32 - Field of Dreams
On the next episode, screening 24 Sept 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Field of Dreams
In 1993 after a long and satisfying career as a GP in Winton, Southland - Dr Terry Wilson decided it was time to get out of medicine. He was after a retirement project he and wife Dawn could enjoy together.
A good friend of the couple was planting grapes in Bannockburn, and he encouraged the Wilsons to join in this venture. But while the idea of wine-making appealed, Terry and Dawn had a soft spot for Wanaka. They’d owned a crib in the region and enjoyed the majority of their family holidays in the small town.
So Terry and Dawn enlisted the help of viticulturist Robin Dicey to help find a site suitable to grow grapes near Wanaka. After a day of driving around they entered the Maungawera valley where Robin spotted a paddock overlooking Mt Maude. Everything about the site looked perfect for grapes. It was North facing, the right altitude and on a contour that looked ideal for avoiding frost.
Although the land wasn’t for sale, a few days later 10 hectares became available. After some soil testing the Wilsons had the land for their wine making dream. They bought the block and planted four hectares of grapes, providing 90% of the labour themselves.
The grapes were instantly successful. At first the Wilsons sold each year’s harvest to Gibbston Valley. Then after three years they employed contract winemakers to produce their own wine, which was sold as Mt Maude, enjoying considerable success by winning several Bragato medals along the way.
While Terry and Dawn’s decision to develop the Mt Maude vineyard was very much their own, the grapes they planted in 1994 also sowed a seed in their youngest daughter Sarah-Kate, or SK for short. SK graduated from Otago with a BSc but had no firm career plan. A visit to the vineyard convinced her that winemaking was something she’d enjoy.
SK then completed a postgraduate course in Oenology at Lincoln, and felt an instant connection with winemaking. “It was the practicality of the course; you could touch stuff, you could feel stuff, you were out there in the fields tasting wines. It was exciting” she says.
After graduating from Lincoln, Sarah Kate headed off to Australia’s Hunter Valley to work at the top winery Brokenwood. The winemaker there was Dan Dineen and the pair soon fell for each other. Their romance blossomed alongside SK’s career. She was recruited to head up an all-female team at the glitzy new label Tempus Two.
Within a short space of time SK and Dan had two of the best winemaking jobs in the Hunter Valley, working a few hundred metres apart, making excellent money, great wine and enjoying plenty of travel in the mix as well.
When they came to Wanaka to get married in 2003 the pair took stock of the opportunity at Mt Maude. They figured that their best prospect of owning a wine business was to buy into SK’s parents operation. Terry and Dawn were thrilled that the pair were even considering it, as they had fantastic careers in Australia. Over the next few years the family planned for SK and Dan’s return, building a winery in Wanaka as a home base for the couple.
Since returning to Wanaka in 2006, SK and Dan have helped build Maude into a much bigger venture than SK’s parents started. The company now leases land in several locations around Central Otago to produce many varieties of wine. Their own family has also grown in size with the couple now proud parents of school aged girls Stella and Mae.
Maude Wines also contracts to make wine for many other Central Otago based labels. They’re sufficiently busy to employ a third winemaker Vanessa Robson to help keep a handle on production. Vanessa claims that one of the secrets of Maude’s success is the sense of family that is instilled amongst the employees.
With so much going on around the winery one thing remains assured; the wines that come from the original block planted by Terry and Dawn in 1994, remain the flagship wines the company produce. The 800 cases of Mt Maude Reserve quickly sell out every vintage.
Dawn says that the way things have turned out (with SK and Dan coming back to take over) has been like a dream come true, and is much more than they imagined when they first planted the vineyard.
For more about Maude Wines, visit www.maudewines.com/
Or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MaudeWines/
Or on Instagram: @maudewines
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